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SUIICIDE BY COP: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 31, 2015 at 12:10 am

By now, a second–and female–officer has arrived on the scene of the arrest of motorist Sandra Bland.

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

(Bland continues screaming, but much of it is inaudible)

Encinia: For a warning you’re going to jail.

Bland: Whatever, whatever.

Encinia: You’re going to jail for resisting arrest. Stand up.

Bland: If I could, I can’t.

Encinia: OK, roll over.

Bland: I can’t even fucking feel my arms.

Encinia: Tuck your knee in, tuck your knee in.

Bland: (Crying): Goddamn. I can’t [muffled].

Encinia: Listen, listen. You’re going to sit up on your butt.

Bland: You just slammed my head into the ground and you do not even care …

[Bland has already told both officers that (1) she is an epileptic, and (2) Encinia slammed her head into the ground.  Now she is again putting them on notice that she could have sustained a traumatic brain injury.  But neither officer shows any concern.]

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Sandra Bland’s jail booking photo

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Female officer: Listen to how he is telling you to get up.

Bland: I can’t even hear.

Female officer: Yes you can.

[After having her head slammed into the ground, Bland says she cannot hear.  Both officers should consider that the injury to her head may be serious–and take her to an emergency room for evaluation.]

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: He slammed my fucking head into the ground.

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: What the hell.

Encinia: Now stand up.

Bland: All of this for a traffic signal. I swear to God. All of this for a traffic signal. (To bystander.) Thank you for recording! Thank you! For a traffic signal — slam me into the ground and everything! Everything! I hope y’all feel good.

Encinia: This officer saw everything.

Female officer: I saw everything.

[Since the female officer was not present when Encinia initially encountered Bland–as the video proves–she could not have “seen everything.”  Her claiming to have done so could be seen as evidence that she intends to lie on Encinia’s behalf.]

Bland:  And (mufled) no you didn’t.  You didn’t see everything leading up to it.

Female Officer: I’m not talking to you.

Bland:  You don’t have to.

[This is the last exchange between Bland and the officers as recorded on the dashcam video of Brian Encinia’s police cruiser.]

* * * * *

Born in 1987, Sandra Bland grew up in Illinois, and lived with her family in suburban Chicago.

She graduated Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois, where she ran track and played volleyball.  She was also a varsity cheerleader and part of the marching band.

She then attended Prairie View A&M University outside Hempstead, Waller County, Texas. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in agriculture.

Bland returned to Illinois in 2009.

In January 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook about police brutality against blacks.

In early July she traveled to Waller County, Texas, to begin a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

In one of her last conversations with her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland said:

“Momma, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas. My purpose is to stop all social injustice in the South.”

On July 13–three days after her arrest on July 10–Bland was found dead in her cell in Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas.

Sandra Bland memorial

Police claimed that she had hanged herself, citing a video she posted in Facebook in March, where Bland stated she was depressed.

Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family, said that at the time of Bland’s death, her relatives were raising money for Bland’s $5,000 bail.  And Bland knew it.

“We don’t understand this,” said Lambert. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The Texas Rangers and the FBI are still investigating Bland’s death.

The Harris County medical examiner conducted an autopsy and ruled her death a suicide, claiming that it found no evidence of a violent struggle.

One possibility: Bland came to Texas to “stop all social injustice in the South.” She may have grown fatally depressed at her inability to “save herself” from jail over a simple traffic violation.

Another possibility: Texas authorities may have indulged in a long-cherished Texas tradition, best explained by a 19th-century Texas Ranger named Samuel Reid.

Reid served as a Ranger scout during the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Recalling his experiences south of the border, he wrote:

Our orders were most strict not to molest any unarmed Mexican.

“And if some of the most notorious of these villians were found shot, or hung up in the chaparral…the [United States] government was charitably bound to suppose that, during a fit of remorse and desperation, tortured by conscience for the many evil deeds they had committed, they had recklessly laid violent hands upon their own lives!  Quien sabe?”  

Meanwhile, Brian Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the state Department of Public Safety found “violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.”

SUICIDE BY COP: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 30, 2015 at 1:02 am

The confrontation between black motorist Sandra Bland and Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia continued to worsen.

Encinia: If you would’ve just listened.

Bland: I was trying to sign the fucking ticket — whatever.

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Are you fucking serious?

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Oh I can’t wait ’til we go to court. Ooh I can’t wait. I cannot wait ’til we go to court. I can’t wait. Oh I can’t wait! You want me to sit down now?

Encinia: No.

Bland: Or are you going to throw me to the floor? That would make you feel better about yourself?

[Bland continues to attack Encinia’s masculinity–almost as if she’s daring him to rough her up.  If he wasn’t thinking of throwing her to the floor, she just gave him the idea.]

Sandra Bland voicemail from jail

Encinia: Knock it off!

Bland: Nah that would make you feel better about yourself. That would make you feel real good wouldn’t it? Pussy ass. Fucking pussy. For a failure to signal you’re doing all of this. In little ass Praire View, Texas. My God they must have …

[Niccolo Machiavelli, in his masterwork, The Discourses, offers this cautionary advice: “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words toward any one, for neither the one or the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy.

[“(Contempt) make(s) him more cautious, and (insults) increase his hatred of you, and make him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

[That’s clearly what happened here.]

Encinia: You were getting a warning, until now you’re going to jail.

Bland: I’m getting a — for what? For what?

Encinia: You can come read.

Bland: I’m getting a warning for what? For what!?

Encinia: Stay right here.

Bland: Well you just pointed me over there! Get your mind right.

Encinia: I said stay over here. Stay over here.

Bland: Ooh I swear on my life, y’all are some pussies. A pussy-ass cop, for a fucking signal you’re gonna take me to jail.

[Again, Bland is essentially daring Encinia–who has total control of her–to physically abuse her.  For her own sake, the smart thing to do would be to shut up.]

Encinia (to dispatch, or an officer arriving on scene): I got her in control she’s in some handcuffs.

Bland: For a fucking ticket. What a pussy. What a pussy. You’re about to break my fucking wrist!

Encinia: Stop moving.

Bland: I’m standing still! You keep moving me, goddammit.

Encinia: Stay right here. Stand right there.

Bland: Don’t touch me. Fucking pussy  — for a traffic ticket (inaudible).

(door slams)

[Again: More profanity–and yet another challenge to Encinia’s masculinity.]

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Sandra Bland was an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement

Encinia: Come read right over here. This right here says ‘a warning.’ You started creating the problems.

Bland: You asked me what was wrong!

Encinia: Do you have anything on your person that’s illegal?

Bland: Do I feel like I have anything on me? This a fucking maxi dress.

Encinia: I’m going to remove your glasses.

Bland: This a maxi dress. (Inaudible) Fucking assholes.

Encinia: Come over here.

Bland: You about to break my wrist. Can you stop? You’re about to fucking break my wrist! Stop!!!

Encinia: Stop now! Stop it! If you would stop resisting.

Female officer: Stop resisting ma’am.

[Even if Bland is not resisting, the testimony of a second officer who says she is could have been used against her in court.]

Bland: (cries) For a fucking traffic ticket, you are such a pussy. You are such a pussy.

[Is Bland referring to Encinia or the female officer?  In either case, such language will do her no good–on the street or in court.]

Female officer: No, you are. You should not be fighting.

Encinia: Get on the ground!

Bland: For a traffic signal!

Encinia: You are yanking around, when you pull away from me, you’re resisting arrest.

Bland: Don’t it make you feel real good don’t it? A female for a traffic ticket. Don’t it make you feel good Officer Encinia? You’re a real man now. You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground. I got epilepsy, you motherfucker.

[By stating she is epileptic, Bland has notified both officers that she could be in danger of a potentially lethal seizure at any moment.  The smart move for the police would have been to rush her to a hospital for an emergency checkup.  But they don’t even talk about doing this.]  

Encinia: Good. Good.

Bland: Good? Good?

Female officer: You should have thought about it before you started resisting.

[The female officer has just confimed–perhaps unintentionally–that her partner slammed Bland’s head into the ground.  She has also demonstrated her own indifference to Bland’s having received a potentially life-threatening injury.]

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

[Although the bystander is not interfering in any way with the arrest, Encinia clearly does not want a non-cop witness to his treatment of Bland.] 

SUICIDE BY COP: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 29, 2015 at 12:17 am

There are some useful lessons to be learned from the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Lessons about how a police officer should behave toward the public.  And lessons about how the public can protect themselves from police abuse.

On July 10, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia stopped black motorist Sandra Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The confrontation quickly escalated to unwarranted aggression and threats by Encinia and foul-mouthed, combative behavior by Bland.

Brian Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here.

Sandra Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, alright.

Encinia (calling in backup):  2547.

Bland: Let’s do this.

Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to.  (Grabs for Bland.)

Bland: Don’t touch me!

[Although Encinia is clearly angry, Bland’s refusal to exit her car was technically “resisting arrest.”  This was a charge to be fought–in court–by her attorney, not–on the street–by Bland.]

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I’m not under arrest–you don’t have the right to take me out of the car.

Encinia: You are under arrest!

[Once the officer says, “You are under arrest,” legally, that’s it. The arrest can be challenged later–in court.  And it may be found unwarranted–in court. But it’s useless and even dangerous to dispute a cop’s right to make an arrest on the street.]

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Brian Encinia

Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?

Encinia (to dispatch): 2547 county fm 1098 (inaudible) send me another unit. (To Bland) Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for failure….

Encinia: I said get out of the car!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my–

Encinia: I‘m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.

Bland: So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car?

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?

Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now!   (Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.)

Bland: Wow. Wow.  (Bland exits car.)

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Brian Encinia aiming a Taser at Sandra Bland

Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car!

Bland: For a failure to signal? You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Get over there.

Bland:  Right, yeah, let’s take this to court, let’s do this.

Encinia:  Go ahead.

Bland: For a failure to signal? Yup, for a failure to signal!

Encinia: Get off the phone!

Bland: (crosstalk)

Encinia: Get off the phone! Put your phone down!

Bland: I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property. Sir?

Encinia: Put your phone down right now. Put your phone down!

(Bland slams phone down on her trunk.)

Bland: For a fucking failure to signal. My goodness. Y’all are interesting. Very interesting.

[Profanity is never helpful in a situation like this–and usually leads to further escalation.  And when the case comes to trial, it’s likely to convince a jury: “She got what she deserved.”]

Encinia: Come over here. Come over here now.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself?

Encinia: Stand right here. Stand right there.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself? For a failure to signal? You feel real good about yourself don’t you? You feel good about yourself don’t you?

[Bland would have been well-advised to remain silent–and refrain from personal attacks on a man who’s clearly shown himself over the edge.]

Encinia: Turn around. Turn around. Turn around now. Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Why can’t you–

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. I will tell you–

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around!

[Obviously, if Bland were complying with the order to “turn around,” Encinia would not be repeating it.]

Bland: Why won’t you tell me that part?

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. Turn around.

Bland: Why will you not tell me what’s going on?

Encinia: You are not complying.

Bland: I’m not complying ’cause you just pulled me out of my car.

[Bland admits that she’s “not complying.” Had she lived, this could have been used against her in court.]

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Are you fucking kidding me? This is some bull…

Encinia: Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: ‘Cause you know this straight bullshit. And you’re full of shit. Full of straight shit. That’s all y’all are is some straight scared cops. South Carolina got y’all bitch asses scared. That’s all it is. Fucking scared of a female.

[Bland is directly challenging the masculinity of a man who clearly feels he has something to prove.  Big mistake.]

SUICIDE BY COP: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

Niccolo Machiavelli offered some advice that might have saved the life of Sandra Bland.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the lessons he offered to those seeking to gain power was this:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.

One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

When confronted by an armed and–in this case, egocentric–law enforcement officer, it’s always best to imitate the fox.

Black motorist Sandra Bland didn’t understand this truth.  Or, if she did, she flagrantly ignored it–to her own destruction.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

Bland, born in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, had just arrived in Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, outside Hempstead, Waller County.

In January, 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook, denouncing racism and police brutality.  In one she wrote: “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.”

On July 10, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia.

FULL VIDEO OF SANDRA BLAND TRAFFIC STOP – YouTube

Their exchange was recorded on the dashcam video of Encinia’s police car, and has been transcribed by the Huffington Post’s Matt Ramos and Dhyana Taylor.

My own commentary on what happened is given in blue italics.

Brian Encinia: Hello ma’am. We’re the Texas Highway Patrol and the reason for your stop is because you failed to signal the lane change. Do you have your driver’s license and registration with you? What’s wrong? How long have you been in Texas?

Sandra Bland: Got here just today.

Encinia: OK. Do you have a driver’s license? (Pause) OK, where you headed to now? Give me a few minutes.

(Bland inaudible)

(Encinia returns to his car for several minutes, then approaches Bland again.)

Encinia: OK, ma’am.  You OK?

Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When’re you going to let me go?

[A better–that is, safer–answer would have been: “I’m fine.”  And then to say nothing until the officer responds.]

Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very really irritated.

Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so [inaudible] ticket.

[Bland may have been correct.  But accusing the officer of improperly stopping her was a mistake from the get-go. No cop is going to admit he made a mistake in stopping someone–especially a cop as clearly aggressive as Encinia quickly proved to be.]

Encinia: Are you done?

Bland: You asked me what was wrong, now I told you.

Encinia: OK.

Bland: So now I’m done, yeah.

Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

[The smart thing would have been to put out the cigarette. Even though the trooper said “please,” this was clearly an order.]

Encinia: Well you can step on out now.

[This was clearly the point where Encinia decided to take action–to give her a warning, a ticket, or make an arrest  For most of the encounter, he doesn’t say which.]

Bland: I don’t have to step out of my car.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: Why am I–?

Encinia: Step out of the car!

[It’s standard procedure for officers to order drivers to exit their cars before they write tickets or citations. The reason: The danger that the motorist might drive off–or even use the car as a weapon.]

Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don’t have the right.

[Telling a policeman he doesn’t have the right to make an arrest is like telling a judge he doesn’t have the right to make a ruling.  Both are certain to land you in trouble.]

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.

Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.

[Even if the officer’s forthcoming actions are later ruled improper by a judge, he has the legal right at that time to enforce compliance with his orders.]

Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.  Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.

Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.

[Bland would have done better to simply get out of the car, submit to arrest, and then call her lawyer when she reached the police station.]

HOW TO END THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2015 at 12:10 am

According to The Mass Shooting Tracker, a project of Guns Are Cool, there have been 204 mass shooting events in the United States so far in 2015.

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far – The Washington Post

There were

  • 18 mass shootings in April;
  • 39 in May;
  • and 41 in June.

July has been a particularly busy month for those seeking the title of “NRA Poster Boy”: 34 mass shootings so far–and the month isn’t over yet.

So what should the surviving victims of these rampages do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Three things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–-with rare exceptions–-have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Second, don’t expect the mental health profession to prevent such future tragedies.

There is simply no definitive way to predict who is likely to commit mass murder.

And even if such a method were developed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional.  A person can’t be jailed or hospitalized for fear of what he might do.

Third, those who survived these rampages–-and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–-should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.

  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.
  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.

  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.
  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–-like the tobacco industry–-will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of slaughters that could have been prevented.

THE CASEY DOCTRINE: MINIMUM COMPLIANCE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm

When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.

But then he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.

Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.

William J. Casey 

Congress had banned the Reagan administration from funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress. But privately, he and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.

For three years the operation stayed secret. Then it blew up in November, 1986, as the Iran-Contra scandal.

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It’s very much alive among the American business community as President Barack Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–-better known as Obamacare–-requires large businesses to provide insurance to full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.

Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–-and thus avoid

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–-and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

The White Castle hamburger chain is considering hiring only part-time workers in the future to escape its obligations under Obamacare.

No less than Jamie Richardson, its vice president, admitted this in an interview.

“If we were to keep our health insurance program exactly like it is with no changes, every forecast we’ve looked at has indicated our costs will go up 24%.”

Richardson claimed the profit per employee in restaurants is only $750 per year. So, as he sees it, giving health insurance to all employees who work over 30 hours isn’t feasible.

Nor is Richardson the only corporate executive determined to shirk his responsibility to his employees.

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
  • Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.

Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  • All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  • Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones; they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–waned to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history. And the university desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–-and of history.

Among the steps it took:

  • Firing Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories;
  • Ousting Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president; and
  • Removing the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno. “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Joe Paterno

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12, 2012:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–-President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–-failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this:

The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is: Above all else, the institution must be protected.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

Those who did were fired ot shipped to Hoover’s version of Siberia: A posting in remote Butte, Montana.

Within the Catholic Church, countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection were repeatedly protected by their high-ranking superiors.

In private industry, whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants are often ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by perfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–-and fearful of losing one or all of these–-can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–-as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–-the more chance we have to control their behavior.

And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

A BRITISH HISTORY LESSON FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2015 at 10:13 am

The siege and fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

And in it lies an invaluable lesson for American policy-makers today.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

It’s a conflict Americans know nothing about–and where they have absolutely nothing to gain.

It’s not only a Syrian civil war but an inner-religious war between Shiite (minority) Muslims and Sunni (majority) Muslims.

The Assad regime is backed by the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It considers Shiite Muslims to be “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.  Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, divided government and trillions of dollars in debt.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE, WE DON’T HAVE TO”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 21, 2015 at 9:35 am

It’s become as routine as the robbery of the corner liquor store.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, hit with massive data breaches that compromise their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • Primera Blue Cross
  • U.S. Postal Service

Click here: Data Breach Tracker: All the Major Companies That Have Been Hacked | Money.com

And as of July 15, Ashley Madison joined this list.

Ashley Madison is, of course, the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands.

Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

One of its ads featured a photo of a woman apparently kneeling at the feet of a bare-chested man, her hand passionately clawing at his belt.  Next to her was the caption: “Join FREE & change your life today.  Guaranteed!”  

Ashley Madison - Ashley Madison Agency

Ashley Madison claims to have more than 37 million members.

Calling themselves “The Impact Team,” hackers appear to be enraged at the company’s “full delete” service, which promises to completely erase a user’s profile and all associated data for a $19 fee.

“Full Delete netted [Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014,” the hackers were quoted as saying in an online manifesto.  “It’s also a complete lie.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

On July 20, Avid Life Media defended the service, and said it would make it free.

Adultery-dating website Ashley Madison hacked

The hackers demanded: “AM [Ashley Madison] AND EM [Established Men] MUST SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY PERMANENTLY.

“We have taken over all systems in your entire office and production domains, all customer information databases, source code repositories, financial records, emails.

“Shutting down AM and EM will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more.”

The hackers threatened to “release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”

Interestingly, the hackers did not target the company’s “CougarLife” website, which caters to female members seeking “a young stud.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

This statement gives new meaning to the phrase, “Closing the barn door after the cow has gotten out.”

It’s almost comical, except for the fact that the marriages of millions of people are likely to be threatened by the release of such information.

And it raises the question: Why wasn’t this “top IT security team” hired at the outset?

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.

This latest breach comes about two months after a similar dating site, Adult FriendFinder–with an estimated 64 million members–was hit with a similar attack.

Again, it was clear that a site like this would be a prime target for those seeking information for blackmail. Yet apparently its owners didn’t care enough about the privacy of their customers to provide adequate security.

“Without question, this is incredibly valuable information,” said J.J. Thompson, founder and chief executive of Rook Security, an IT security firm.

“[Ashley Madison’s customers] are now vulnerable to a significant secret.”

As usual when a corporation’s data breach occurs, Ashley Madison issued a reassuring statement: “We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.

“Any and all parties responsible for this act of cyber-terrorism will be held responsible.”

Brave-sounding words.  But if the hackers make good on their threat, many prominent men in business and politics may soon find themselves facing expensive divorces.

And if that happens, at least some of them may well decide to take out their anger and embarrassment on the websits that assured them that the highly private information they shared was “100% secure.”

That could set a precedent for lawsuits by other victims of such data breaches. Which, in turn, could force profit-obsessed corporations to responsibly protect the highly sensitive information entrusted to them.

There is an important lesson to be learned from this latest disaster.

“Stuff that’s online is pretty much not private, no matter what you might hope or think or wish for,” said Geoff Webb, senior director of solution strategy for security management firm NetIQ.

Old records, like transactions and account details, remain in company databases long after you’ve deleted an account, he said, because the company needs them for tax and other business purposes.

“There used to be an old saying that everybody ends up naked on the Internet at some point,” said Webb.

Although that was meant figuratively, patrons of websites like Ashley Madison could soon find it applying literally.

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE, WE DON’T HAVE TO”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives.  And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers.  But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care.  We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information–such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database–but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI is now investigating the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing.  With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did last October.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.”  And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information.  There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence.  And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies–and especially their CEOs–when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because our heads will roll if we don’t.”

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